The Bible only ever explicitly mentions tattoos in Leviticus 19:28: “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.” 

It’s right there in the words… but does this mean God forbids tattoos for Christians today?

Let’s first break down the historical context of the verse: Leviticus 19 takes place after the Israelites had been delivered from Egypt. In it, Moses, God’s mouthpiece, is telling the Israelites how God wants them to live as His people.

It is important to consider that tattoos were a significant emblem in Egypt; they meant much more than “ink on skin” which is how many think of tattoos today. 

Historical evidence points to tattoos being used as a mark of property. Slaves were branded with tattoos to identify them as property of Egyptian masters, legalising their ownership. 

Tattoos also held religious significance: women in Egypt may have tattooed certain parts of their body believing it would provide benefits like protection and fertility.

Slashing one’s skin is also seen as a ritualistic practice elsewhere in the Old Testament.

What does it mean to glorify God? And what does it mean that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit?

However, the Bible does also mention other kinds of markings.

Isaiah 44:5 reads: “Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’, others will call themselves by the name of Jacob; still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and will take the name Israel.”

One might see such a marking as a sign of belonging to God, rather than worship of an idol or being others’ property as it had meant in Moses’ time. 

So, which way is right?

As you can see, tattoos can really make for a grey area both on skin and in discussion — let’s go further.

Your body is a temple   

If you’ve ever been in a discussion about tattoos, you may also have heard 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 being raised:

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

I believe the verse shouldn’t be used to justify why tattoos, specifically, should not be done upon our skin.

This is because Paul was speaking about sexual immorality.

However, the heart behind the verse is still worth considering when it comes to the tattoo question. 

What does it mean to glorify God? And what does it mean that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit?

Our answers to those questions may vary, but let it produce a response that comes from faith and pleases God. 

Elsewhere in 1 Corinthians, there may be other verses that prove helpful in helping each of us tackle the tattoo question.

1 Corinthians 10:31 reads: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 

Again, it’s not a verse that’s talking about tattoos specifically, but let’s consider its heart and inspect our own: can we say with a clear conscience that getting a tattoo honours God? Would our tattoos stumble our brother or build him up?

1 Corinthians 10:23 also tells us: “I have the right to do anything” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.

How does a verse like that shape or challenge what we believe when it comes to things like tattoos?

Wherever you stand, whatever you do — let us honour and glorify God! 

  1. What do you think about tattoos?
  2. Which part of Scripture informs these views you hold on tattoos?
  3. How has the article challenged or helped shape your views?  
  4. Are you being a peacemaker when it comes to discussions on contentious topics like this? 
  5. How is God calling you to honour Him today?